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METC welcomes first Air Force commandant

By Lisa Braun | METC Public Affairs | Oct. 9, 2014

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON — Brig. Gen. Robert I. Miller took the "stick" from Rear Adm. William M. Roberts and became the third commandant of the Medical Education and Training Campus during a change of commandant ceremony Sept. 24 at the Student Academic Support Building auditorium at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.  
 
Miller is METC's first Air Force commandant, a position that also inherits the dual hat of education and training director for the new Defense Health Agency. 

Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb, director of the Defense Health Agency, presided over the ceremony, while the Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, served as guest speaker.

The ceremony reflected the tri-service nature of METC, which trains enlisted Army, Navy and Air Force students to become medics, hospital corpsmen, medical technicians or specialists in an array of medical fields.

Elements of different service traditions were evident throughout the ceremony, including a Navy boatswain's mate piping the official party aboard, a multi-service color guard and the Air Force tradition of passing of the flag.

While introducing Woodsen, Robb spoke about having been assigned as joint surgeon on the staff of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs prior to his position as director of the Defense Health Agency, explaining that from both vantage points "the concept and the reality of a joint medical education and training center was near and dear to my heart."

"What Bill Roberts did during his tenure was to assure - and reassure, and reassure again - to all of us that becoming more joint and integrated was not a threat," Robb continued. "It was additive, it was complimentary, it is a force multiplier. We still have our uniforms, we still have our unique missions, we still have our reporting chains ... but we have even more in common than we have differences.

"Our strength is in our diversity, but more importantly our strength is in our unity of effort," Robb emphasized.

Woodson got right to the point in his remarks, stating that METC is one of the most important institutions anywhere in the Military Health System.

"It is at institutions like METC, like West Point, or the Naval War College, or Air Command and Staff College, where we study and learn from our experiences and we share our wisdom with the next generation of military leaders," said Woodson.  "The next generation of medical leaders in our system starts their journey right here." 

Woodson continued, "It's our job to ensure our medical teams understand each other at each of those critical hand-offs; that we use common processes and common equipment and know how to interact with each other.

"That's what METC is here for. That is why this institution was established. It's working and all of you have made that happen," he stated.

Woodson concluded, "Thank you Admiral Roberts for both a career of exceptional service, and an historic role in leading this organization. And congratulations General Miller on accepting such an important leadership opportunity.  I wish you both great success."

Roberts began serving as commandant of the largest tri-service integrated medical enlisted training campus in Department of Defense history in September 2012.  He also served concurrently as the inaugural director of the Defense Health Agency Education and Training Directorate since June.
 
As METC commandant, Roberts led the 49-program campus, 1,200 dedicated faculty and staff and 20,000 annual graduates through numerous achievements. Under his watch, METC students continually exceeded the national average on board certification pass rates and his steadfast efforts working with national and state accreditation agencies have ensured continued academic recognition for all METC graduates, which is in concert with the White House veterans' initiative.
 
He was instrumental in METC receiving a full six-year accreditation by the Council on Occupational Education and he also played a significant role in METC affiliation initiatives with the Community College of the Air Force and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

"Whether creating a tri-service instructor training program ... seeking new academic affiliations, certifications, and degree opportunities for our students and instructors ... seizing service best practices and looking for novel course consolidation opportunities ... developing the finest, innovative, multifaceted and relevant strategic plan I have seen in my over 35 years in uniform ... taking care of our Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in and out of the classroom ... the service members, civilians and contractors who are the heart of this high-performing organization continue to excel at every turn," Roberts said.
  
"You should be intensely proud of who you are and what you do, as I am proud of you," he added.
 
Prior to arriving at METC, Miller served as command surgeon and director for medical services and training at the Air Education & Training Command on Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. In addition to clinical positions, Miller's assignments also include command surgeon at a major command, chief of the medical staff at the facility and MAJCOM level, and command surgeon at the squadron, group, and a combatant commander levels.
 
Miller holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Massachusetts and a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air War College. He is a certified physician executive and a Fellow of the American College of Physician Executives, American College of Healthcare Executives, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

"My military medical training began at Uniformed Services University and is something I am very proud of," Miller asserted. "I am a product of joint training that focused on what was best in support of the patient to complete the mission irrespective of what color of uniform a medic was wearing."

Miller explained that since he was not an Air Force Academy graduate or a Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet, upon entering USU, his focus was on clinical medicine as he had no service-specific experience to fall back on. But at USU, he also had the unique opportunity to learn about some of the traditions, customs and courtesies that make each service special.

"The camaraderie between students, the esprit de corps was engrained within the USU culture," Miller said. "That continued when I completed fellowship training at another tri-service program in developmental pediatrics at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.

"After a variety of jobs within the Air Force, things came full circle when I was sent to Stuttgart, Germany as the combatant command surgeon general for U.S. Africa Command in 2010. Once again, I found myself living and working in a joint environment - this time with key players from the whole of government. The take-home message was the same: together we are better. That is why I am so excited about the opportunity to be part of the new Defense Health Agency and METC."

Miller addressed the men and women of METC, telling them it is important that he earn their trust as the new commandant. "I appreciate the importance of trust in this joint environment, where our present and future goals need to be focused on our people, irrespective of the color of uniform they proudly wear," he told them.

"The mission and vision is clear. METC is recognized as a leader in allied health education and training because of our staff and faculty, the quality of our training and most importantly the end product - the finest medics, corpsmen and technicians in the world."